Newsletters Blog

My own flaws and my own fears are my greatest teacher

by Jacq Molloy, Snr Communications & Project Lead

[All quotations and book excerpts are from The Three Marriages – Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte, 2009]

How well do we talk about ageing?

This seems to be a question we are really starting to grapple with in earnest. Our attendance at the inaugural ARIAA conference in Adelaide last year brought this home: just how much work is being undertaken around the world to understand what we mean by ageing and how we should look at it to be able to create a healthy and happy society.


And yet how well do we, as a modern society, really talk about the ageing process especially as it relates to death and dying and loss and grief?

As well as supporting good life and good death perspectives and practices, we need to, collectively, get better at conversations about what it feels like to age into old age and what it feels like to watch those we love and/or care for age into old age.

From the smallest existential niggle (when might it happen?) to the biggest hit (loss of a partner, loss of mobility, loss of cognitive ability … loss), do we have the skills to open up, articulate and share?

The title of this article, My own flaws and my own fears are my greatest teacher, is the title of a chapter from David Whyte’s splendid book, The Three Marriages – Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship (2009).

He writes, If I am afraid of something and especially if there is no logical reason I should emphasise that particular fear beyond all the other fears that human beings feel, then I have the possibility of coming to terms with and questioning the premises on which my sense of self pivots. My flaws are my doorway to self-understand and my way of understanding the flaws and fears of others.

The strange irony is that that we take these very personal problems too personally. We think that if we investigate the self we will find out that there is something wrong at the core, and we want to defend against that revelation at all costs. The surface personality feels as if it is going to die and becomes deathly afraid of the conversation.

How do we deal with this fear if it is so essentially part of our being human?

Information. Reflection. Compassion. Empathy.  

Because if being human is also to be full of fears then it must also be part of being human to allay those fears. We can accept this because fear is an adrenaline-spiked state when we look at it. But we know that adrenaline passes. Fear passes. We need to learn more in order to have the conversation with ourselves and others to be able to consciously facilitate the passing of fear, particularly when it comes to death and dying and fear and loss.  

David Whyte to close:

‘The essential thing is that we see its necessity and make that often unconscious relationship with the self as conscious and as generous to others in this world as any happy marriage can be’.  

Our online workshops in March and other MAA events coming up will address this topic and provide valuable perspectives and information. You can learn more on our website events page and also check out the upcoming events in this newsletter!